Hurd on the Hill: Protecting Access to Health Care for Seniors and Rural Communities

April 7, 2015
Hurd on the Hill: Local Columns

Traveling the district, I hear story after story from seniors about how difficult it has become for them to get an appointment with their Medicare doctor. Some seniors tell me that their long-time and trusted doctor is considering turning Medicare patients away because their reimbursement from the Medicare system is falling below the cost of providing care. This issue has been part of the status quo in Washington  since 1997 and was only growing worse.

Fortunately, last month the U.S. House of Representatives reached a historic agreement that will help right the ship of Medicare and ensure that our seniors have ready access to their doctors. For years, a complicated formula was used to decide how much Medicare doctors would receive for taking care of our seniors. This formula was seriously flawed, which lead to countless patches and temporary fixes. A real solution seemed out of reach until just recently.

This new way of reimbursing Medicare doctors goes beyond just making sure that doctors will see seniors. It rewards them for the quality of care they give our loved ones, not just the quantity. And because it also included real reforms to the Medicare system, it puts Medicare back on the path of sustainability, making sure it’s around for the long-haul.  It does all this and actually lowers the deficit by $230 billion in the second decade alone. This is good news not only for today’s seniors, but also for future generations.

This legislation also has another remarkable accomplishment. Most of our Community Health Centers were facing a “primary care cliff” which would have forced centers to lay-off staff, close clinics and discontinue services, causing thousands of Texans in rural and underserved communities to lose access to preventive healthcare.

According to José E. Camacho, Executive Director and General Counsel of the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, there are eleven of these centers in our district and they provide high quality, affordable health care to nearly 220,000 hard-working Texans right here in our neighborhoods. The cost-effective primary and preventive care they offer is vital for the economic future of our district.

Thanks to this bipartisan bill, Seniors will be able to continue getting quality care from their doctors, Medicare is strengthened for future generations and our local communities will continue to be able to offer much needed primary and preventive care to district families. I’m looking forward to the Senate passing this bill and seeing it sent to the President for his signature.